Graham's Game - Protecting from Predators
With millions of birds entering the release pens, it must feel like the buffet is open to predators - Here are some top tips I employ to minimise your losses.
First thing is to check that your release pen netting is at least 2m high and fixed securely to the ground. If not, then this needs to be addressed immediately. There is a lot of cheaply made imported netting that a lot of people purchase but I truly think this is a false economy which many people unfortunately learn after the first time it fails. So I would definitely recommend putting your efforts into ensuring your pen is constructed with british made high quality netting and fencing.
It's very important to identify the predators involved. Walk around the pen and observe possible rat runs, burrows and pad marks in soft ground. Keep yourself concealed well out of the way so you can see what activity occurs naturally. Stay until after dark and listen for any owl presence.
If you think raptors are your problem, make sure you have good concealment cover for your poults and flashing lights can help. I use bits of mirror on the floor at an angle to reflect the moon upwards to scare the raptors.
As soon as pheasant food arrives in the pen, rats arrive swiftly afterwards! I would trap heavily in the locality, which will also help to keep away the predators of rats and pheasants such as mink.
Vegetation in the two metres around the pen should ideally be dead or very short. Then ensure the electric fence is really strong and at the correct height so foxes or badgers can't dig in or pin a pheasant poult against the outside of the wire.
The release pen on many small shoots should be the pheasants' hotel and safety refuge. There are all kinds of pheasant pop holes available but the one that seems to work for me is the fox grid, 18 inches off the ground with two ramps. This gets the birds quickly back into the safety of the pen.
Finally, run a dog through the pen to check a fox isn't already inside before you add your birds (it does happen!) and take lots of evening walks to check for any damage.
Until next time - Stay Ahead of the Game!